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Dr. Kelly Cartwright

Professor Kelly Cartwright Awarded Grant to Study Effects of Elementary Language Programs

$1.4 million project will follow 600 Washington, D.C.-area students for three years.


Psychology Professor Dr. Kelly Cartwright is part of a team studying key questions about how children learn language skills.

Cartwright is the co-principal investigator of a $1.4 million grant-funded project that will study dual language immersion (DLI) programs over the next several years.

The project, called Project CLIMB – Capturing Language Immersion Benefits – is a collaboration with professors at the University of Maryland.

In DLI programs, English learners and English native speakers learn beside one another as teachers instruct in both languages across all their content areas during the school day.

The award is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, an arm of the U.S. Department of Education. Project CLIMB will allow Cartwright and her colleagues to study about 600 Washington, D.C.-area kindergarten through fifth-grade students as they progress in their studies over three years.

Cartwright says that DLI programs are growing in number but that they are under-studied. The length and scope of Project CLIMB will allow the researchers to study important mental skills such as cognitive flexibility (the ability to switch ideas, perspectives or activities), language proficiency and reading comprehension. The team will analyze the data and share findings in the fourth year of the study.

“The programs provide a wonderful test case for understanding the beneficial effects of bilingualism, by allowing us to examine whether executive functioning skills vary based on degree of bilingualism,” Cartwright says. “Our hope is that our findings will help us and others better understand the principles of effective teaching and learning in DLI programs, which can inform work in other schools such as the DLI programs in Newport News Public Schools as well as in second language learning education in typical (non-DLI) schools.”

Christopher Newport students will have the opportunity to be involved in the project. Cartwright said it’s rare and exciting to see undergraduate students able to be involved in major federally funded projects.

Cartwright teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in cognitive development, language, and literacy processes and instruction. She holds a PhD from the University of Arkansas.


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